Deadly Arkansas Train Collision Caused by Engineer Fatigue

A fatal crash and derailment between two Union Pacific trains in Arkansas on Aug. 17, 2014 was the result of a tired engineer and conductor who were likely both asleep on at least one of the trains, according to federal investigators this month. 

The dual train crash happened in Hoxie, Arkansas, and the NTSB reported that it could have been prevented by positive train control (PTC), a form of automatic braking operated by GPS, which Congress has mandated to be in place by 2018.

The train crash in Arkansas derailed 55 cars and killed a total of two people  – both crew members on different trains.

The NTSB stated that the southbound Union Pacific train hit the northbound train as it was turning onto another track. The southbound train passed two warning lights and a red signal, but did not slow down. There was no activity in the cab of the train before the wreck.

The board did not find the northbound train at fault. Several people on that train were seriously injured.

The engineer in the northbound train had moderate sleep apnea that was diagnosed in 2010.

Our View

We wrote about this fatal train crash in Arkansas when it happened. Our Virginia and North Carolina train crash attorneys have long been baffled that railroads have delayed the installation of PTC on their trains. PTC would automatically stop a train before it can run a red signal or get into another situation that endangers human life.

The Federal Railroad Adminsration states that PTC could stop 52 train crashes each year. We hope that railroads will implement PTC before the 2018; it will save lives.

Our personal injury attorneys are experienced in wrongful death and personal injury claims in train accidents. The need for robust state laws involving personal injury recoveries could not be more demonstrated by nationwide railroad highway grade crossing crash cases. While the federal laws provide for it national railroad system, when persons are harmed or killed in railroad crashes, the state laws system supplies the right of recovery for persons that suffer injuries caused by negligence.

 

 

58 Year Old Woman Seriously Hurt in RR Crossing Crash

A 58 year old woman was seriously injured on Dec. 9 at 8 am when her Pontiac SUV was struck by a commuter train heading towards Boston, Massachusetts. The serious railroad crossing crash happened in Belmont, MA. 

rail

The Massachusetts State Police stated that there were three children in the SUV as well. The six year old was still in the SUV when the train struck it. The woman driver was trying to get the child out when the train smashed into the SUV. She suffered serious head injuries and is in critical condition.

Some witnesses thought that the woman’s vehicle may have gotten trapped between the crossing gates at the railroad crossing, but the police are still investigating.

Our View

Railroad crossing accident happen often in America; there is a car/train accident every 12 minutes, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia also handle a good number of these accidents, and we agree that there are far too many of them. 

In many of these train/car collisions, the police may be quick to blame the car driver, but these accidents are complicated, and often the railroad and/or engineer is to blame.

In our time working on railroad personal injury lawsuits, we have seen safety gates fail and train engineers either falling asleep or being distracted, leading to a serious train accident at a railroad crossing.

Sometimes there is brush, weeds and trees that have grown up along the tracks and this obscures the driver’s vision.

The family of the seriously injured woman should know that this railroad crossing accident should be looked at very closely by an experienced personal injury attorney. The goal is to determine if the engineer or railroad was at fault in the tragedy. Head injuries are extremely serious, and even if the woman driver recovers, she could need hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover medical expenses.

 

 

Woman Severely Injured in Railroad Crossing Accident

A woman in Greenbrier, Tennessee was airlifted to a local hospital on November 2 when her car was hit by a train at a local railroad crossing. 

The accident happened at 5 am on November 2 in Greenbriar at the Wilson St. crossing. According to the local chief of police, the woman was in critical condition with serious railroad crossing accident injuries when she was taken to the hospital.

rail

Earlier in 2016, all of the railroad crossings in Greenbrier City were assinged a risk analysis score, and two of them were slated for improvements. It is not known if the Wilson St. crossing was scheduled for improvements.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents usually involve very serious injuries, and often death. Thousands of Americans die at railroad crossings annually across the country. In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration states that cars and trains collide every 12 minutes!

As railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina, we have seen railroad crossing accidents that happened for many  reasons. In many cases, the local police department just take the word of the railroad and blame the car driver for any accident at a railroad crossing. However, there are some railroad accidents where the car driver was not at fault.

Common railroad accident causes that we have seen in our personal injury lawsuit cases are:

  • Maintenanace problems: Sometimes a train can have defective brakes or a problem with the controls. Also, there can be vegetation that has grown up around the tracks and this prevents the car driver from seeing the oncoming train. 
  • Sleepy train engineer: Human factors, including drowsy engineers, cause 35% of car train accidents. Some engineers are overworked and they fall asleep on the job.
  • Train engineer is distracted: Some train operators are busy talking or texting on a cell phone, and they are not watching the tracks while the train is in motion.
  • Safety gate problems: Sometimes safety gates malfunction and stay up, even when the train is rolling through the crossing.

If your car is hit by a train at a railroad crossing, never make the assumption that it was your fault. This is often not the case at all. We recently represented a driver whose car was hit by a train in Prince William County, Virginia, and we were able to settle the cases for approximately $130,000. This was significant, because his children were injured in the car-train accident and needed medical care to recover.

 

 

Railroad Crossings Caused 90 Accidents in Alabama in 2015

When a 30 car train hits a car, the vehicles hit each other with the same amount of force as a car smashing an aluminum can. It is that type of force that leads to more than 2000 accidents with many injuries and deaths at railroad crossings around the country each year. Ninety of those were in Alabama in 2015, according to Alabama Operation Lifesaver. 

Alabama has 6000 railroad crossings and 3500 miles of tracks. This means that drivers and pedestrians encounter railroad crossings every day. Operation Lifesaver Alabama travels the state regularly on a 40 city tour to educate citizens about the importance of railroad safety for drivers and pedestrians.

rail

Operation Lifesaver says that it has helped to cut down car/train accidents across the US from 12,000 in 1972 to 2059 in 2015. Even though the number of accidents has declined, Alabama still ranks #6 in the US for the number of accidents each year.

While Operation Lifesaver says it is very important for drivers and pedestrians to pay attention and to stop at railroad tracks, it also is important for railroads to make sure the safety lights and gates at crossings are working, and that the grass, trees and brush are cut so that drivers can see oncoming trains.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents can lead to serious injury or death. If you or a loved one was in such a railroad accident, we want you to have as much information as possible. There are many federal and state rules that affect the duties and responsibilities of the railroad company and crew that are using that railroad crossing. Some of the accidents that occur at railroad crossings are due to train engineer or railroad company error. 

One area where a train engineer can cause an accident is speeding through a railroad crossing; federal rules limit how fast trains can go through railroad crossings. Also, federal regulations apply regarding when a  horn or whistle must be blasted at a crossing. Further, trees, shrubs and vegetation at a railroad crossing must be trimmed so that drivers have an unobstructed view.

In short, railroad crossing accidents are very complex legally, and anyone in such an accident should speak to an experienced railroad accident attorney. Large settlements are possible in many railroad crossing accidents. 

Hoboken NJ Train Engineer Had Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

The engineer running a New Jersey Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal in September had a undiagnosed sleep disorder, according to his attorney this week. 

trestle

The engineer, Thomas Gallagher, recently discovered that he had severe sleep apnea. The test results that confirmed the disorder were sent to federal authorities on Oct. 31.

Gallagher stated that he did not remember the crash at all, and he believes that the sleep disorder may have led to the accident that killed one and injured more than 100.

His attorney stated that the engineer believes that the sleep disorder caused him to black out just before the crash. Gallagher said that he remembered checking his speed as he should just  before pulling into the terminal, blowing the whistle and ringing the bell. The next thing he remembered, he was on the floor of the engine after the accident.

The train smashed into the station in the middle of a busy morning commute. The person who died was on the train platform and was struck by debris. Other commuters also were injured by flying debris, and some passengers on the train also were injured.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea can be a serious danger for professionals who operate trains, trucks, airplanes or other commercial transportation. The condition involves pauses in breathing during sleep, which causes the person to wake up. This can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day.

The Federal Railroad Administration or FRA stated this week that it would release a new safety advisory to urge railroads to more aggressively fight worker fatigue and to install cameras in trains.

Our View

As railroad accident attorneys in Virginia, we wish that the train engineer had been diagnosed with his sleep apnea condition as it could have saved lives. Also, this tragic train accident is another reminder of the importance of commuter trains installing Positive Train Control or PTC.

This system would automatically stop a train before it is able to speed excessively or to run a red signal. PTC was supposed to be installed on at least 25 US passenger train systems by the end of 2015, but it has now been delayed until 2018.

We hope that PTC will be installed on major commuter rail systems as soon as possible so that serious train accidents and derailments can be prevented. Our railroad attorneys have worked on major train accident cases involving large financial settlements and verdicts, and we would like to see fewer of these tragedies happen.

 

 

New Jersey Transit Approves Funds for Postive Train Control

In the wake of a deadly commuter train crash in a busy Hoboken, New Jersey train station, New Jersey Transit has approved a budget that includes funding for large parts of positive train control (PTC) system, which would include an automatic braking system that could automatically stop a train in an emergency situation.

hoboken

New Jersey Transit approved an agreement for leasing radio frequency spectrum, which is an essential part of a PTC system, to cover northern and eastern areas of the railroad in the state. In April, the transit authority worked out a deal to cover the southern, central and western areas.

NJ Transit has until the end of 2018 to fully implement PTC, per the federal deadline for the installation of PTC on all commuter train systems.

When the commuter train in Hoboken crashed, killing one and leaving 100 injured, the NTSB quickly concluded that an automatic braking system may have prevented the disaster. In that crash in late September 2016, the commuter train was rolling into the Hoboken station at a normal 5 MPH, but suddenly increased speed and crashed into the terminal, spraying debris through the waiting crowds of commuters.

It is not yet known why the train sped up; the engineer has no memory of the crash.

When a train derailed in Philidelphia in May 2015, the NTSB also determined quickly that the derailment would have been prevented by PTC.

Our View

Our railroad accident and railroad derailment lawyers are glad that New Jersey Transit is working on installing PTC on its trains and rail lines. PTC could prevent 52 accidents per year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The NTSB also claims that if PTC had been in place, it could have prevented 15 train crashes since 2005 that killed 50 people.

Our personal injury attorneys implore the US and state governments to implement Positive Train Control more quickly. We should be keeping up with countries in Europe and Asia that already have versions of PTC in place.

When train derailments occur, the injuries and deaths are devastating to families. And those derailments can lead to huge personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that can cost the railroad tens of millions of dollars in a jury verdict. PTC is a smart investment.

 

NTSB Finds That Hoboken Train Speed Tripled Before Wreck

A deadly train crash in New Jersey on Sept. 29 that killed one and injured more than 100 underwent a rapid acceleration just before impact as it entered a busy commuter station in Hoboken NJ, according to the NTSB. 

The NTSP stated that the train was rolling into the station at a normal eight MPH, but for some reason, about 30 seconds before the crash, it sped up to at least 25 MPH.

hoboken

The engineer working the train stated that the brakes were operating normally. The emergency brakes were applied one second before impact.

The NTSB will continue to review the deadly crash and will make safety recommendations to avoid a recurrence. That could take more than a year.

The engineer told investigators that he was not using his cell phone and that the brakes had been checked before the trip. He claims no memory of the crash and remembers waking up on the floor of the cab.

There is speculation that the engineer fell asleep, but the investigation is continuing.

Our View

Our personal injury and railroad accident attorneys hope that this railroad crash in New Jersey will speed the adoption of positive train control or PTC throughout the commuter rail industry. The technology exists now to automatically slow trains that do not stop as they should, or are running well beyond speed limits for given area, but there continues to be delays in implementing this system throughout the country.

With PTC on line, this would prevent many train accidents from occurring, as well as serioius injuries and loss of life that leads to expensive lawsuits. 

 

 

 

New York Work Train Sideswipes Passenger Train, Injuring 29

A long Island Railroad work train sideswiped a New York passenger train on the evening of Oct. 8, injuring 30. 

While there were no life threatening injuries reported, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did stated that some of the injuries included broken bones and concussions.

Federal-Employee-Liability

The passenger train involved in the railroad crash was the train that leaves at 8:22 from Penn Station in New York. The rail accident happened after 9 PM. The crash caused the first three cars of the passenger train to derail.

Mangano said the crash happened near a switch, but is was unclear if a switch malfunction led to the crash and derailment.

Our View

Our railroad injury personal injury attorneys based in Virginia are relieved that there were apparently no life threatening injuries in this train crash. However, there were serious personal  injuries reported and we hope all of the injured passengers recover.

As personal injury lawyers who have won record-setting verdicts in train derailment cases, there are far too many train accidents across America that occur due to lapses in safety. Earlier this month, a serious commuter train crash occurred at a busy station in New Jersey, killing one and injuring more than 100.

Human errors usually have something to do with the cause of serious railroad accidents and train collisions. Nonetheless, the railroads are seeking to downsize train crews on commuter railroad  crews to a single engineer or operator but the leaves no fail safe if that person is distracted, falls asleep, or otherwise fails to act appropriately with regard to safety.
A slightly less effective fail safe is positive train control that will automatically stop a train under certain circumstances but the railroads of course have to delayed implementation and tried to water down implementation to less than 100% of the railroad or commuter lines in the nation. The public need not wonder whether positive train control would have made a difference in many of the major railroad and commuter line accidents and tragedies that happened in the last several years.

In both of the train crashes, it appears that safety issues led to serious accidents.  One important safety feature that could prevent some collisions and derailments is Postive Train Control or PTC. This system is based on GPS technology and would automatically stop a train if a collision were imminent. Railroads lobbied Congress to push back the date to install PTC on all commuter trains until 2018. That’s too bad, because it is possible that these two serious train crashes may have been avoided with better safety techology in place.

 

 

 

 

NJ Train Engineer Has No Memory of the Crash That Killed 1

The engineer who was running the train in Hoboken NJ that smashed into a busy commuter rail terminal, which killed a woman and injured more than 100, told federal investigators this week that he was only going 10 MPH as he approached the station, but has no memory of the crash. 

The statement from the train engineer, Thomas Gallagher, came as federal investigators discovered that a data recorder on the train that was supposed to record speed and braking data did not work. Investigators say there is a second data recorder but it is under a collapsed part of the station’s roof and they cannot get to it.

trestle

Federal rules require that commuter trains have a functioning recorder in the lead car, and the boxes also are supposed to be inspected each year.

Gallagher stated that he was fully rested and the train was functioning normally last Thursday morning before it crashed. The crash took the life of Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, who was standing on the train platform.

The investigation will continue in the coming weeks, and investigators hope they can get to the second data recorder soon.

Months before this deadly New Jersey train crash, federal rail authorities have found dozens of safety violations in safety audits that focused on NJ Transit’s safety and operations.

Our View

From what the engineer is telling investigators, it is possible that he had some type of medical emergency during the crash. Hopefully this will become clearer in the coming weeks.

If he did have a medical emergency in this tragic train crash with death and personal injury, this points to the need more than ever of Positive Train Control (PTC) on all passenger trains as soon as possible. This is a GPS-based safety system that can prevent over speed derailments and train to train collisions.

PTC could prevent many terrible train crashes and derailments, such as this case with serious personal injury in Virginia that we won a verdict for $60 million.

But there’s also another possible simple explanation of the engineer falling asleep and having no recollection of the circumstances. Many safety experts have called for no less than two operators or engineers of not only commuter railroad trains, but on freight trains and passenger trains.

 

 

US Railroad Workers Testing Positive for Drugs Skyrockets

In early 2016, a railroad worker who had just been briefed on an upcoming assignment was found dead in a restroom, having overdosed on illegal prescription drugs. In the following months, tests that were done after three railroad accidents found that six employees on the trains tested positive for drugs. 

In a report done by the Washington Post, testing in 2016 has shown that almost 8% of workers involved in railroad crashes were positive for various illegal and prescription drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, benzodiazepine, OxyContin and morphine.

rail

The number of post-crash drug positives was the highest since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) started to keep records in 1987. Overall, the number of railroad workers who tested positive for drug use went up 43% in the last year. The number increased to 256 last year from 2014.

After rail crashes in 2014, no workers tested positive for drugs, and only two people did last year. With three months left in 2016, 16 railroad workers have tested positive in tests after railroad accidents.

Railroads transported 565 million passengers and 14.2 million carloads of freight in the last year. Train workers are some of the most heavily drug tested in the US. They are drug screened before they are hired, and they are tested randomly on the job each year.

Still, the report shows that there is strong evidence that illegal drug use is on the rise in the railroad industry. That is why in September 2016, the heads of all major railroads in the US were called to Washington to talk in a closed door meeting about the rise in drug use among rail workers and what to do about it. Officials from the FRA, National Transportation Safety Board and the Office of National Drug Control Policy detailed their concerns about the drug problem and asked the railroads to help them deal with it.

One thing that is being changed is that currently, railroad drug testing is limited to 120,000 workers whose jobs are ‘safety sensitive,’ or where lives are put at risk in the performance of their work. Train and track repair workers do not have to undergo drug testing. Federal officials want this to change. They want railroads to start testing these workers as well by April 1, 2017, but so far, industry is resisting a deadline that soon; they have asked for a delay in the additional testing for another 14 months.

Our View

Railroad accidents, railroad crossing crashes and train derailments are too common in America. As railroad accident attorneys who handle serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, we hope that railroads across the US will start to do more stringent testing of all railroad workers for drugs.

After all, when a serious train accident occurs, massive injuries can occur, such as in this $60 million verdict our Virginia railroad accident lawyers handled when a train derailed in Manassas VA. If drug testing could reduce the likelihood of this type of train accident, we are all for it.